What Are Tenor Sax Fingerings?

The tenor sax features 24 keys.

Having to study all of the fingerings on the tenor sax may seem like an unconquerable assignment; however, with the right exercise technique and fingering chart, you can memorize the fingerings and develop your craft. There are five ranges the saxophonist must remember to become skilled. Master each of these ranges by practicing major and minor scales daily while using a fingering chart.

First Octave

The first octave of the tenor sax fingerings are the ones most often used in music. They extend from an A below middle C to the C-sharp an octave above middle C.

Play the lowest note by holding down the first three keys of the left hand and the first three keys of the right hand along with the low C side key. From this position, you can use your fingering chart to memorize the rest of the notes.

Second Octave

The second octave isn't used as much, but is important to learn. Using precise pitch notation, C4 is middle C right below the treble clef. Each C above or below that increases or decreases by one. For example, the C above C4 would be called C5, and it will appear on the third space of the treble clef.

The second octave begins on D5 and extends to F6. To play the pitches in this range, you must use the left thumb or octave key. This key is located on the top side of the instrument. Use the left thumb key for the first note, the first three left keys and the first three right keys.

Lower Altissimo

The first note of the second octave is F #6. This note may be played most easily use the octave key along with the first and third left main keys and the first main right key. You may find that you have to depress the lower Eb key as well if it is out of tune on your saxophone. The range of the lower altissimo is a minor third and stretches from F #6 to A6. Using the tenor saxophone-fingering chart, you should experiment to see what key combinations sound best.

Middle Altissimo

The middle altissimo range starts with A#6 and ends on C#7. The fingering for A#6 is less obvious than the other fingerings. It requires the use of the octave key, the third key of the left-hand, and the C key on the right-hand. The C side key is located in the middle of the set of three smaller keys. Practice scales that extend into the altissimo register to study your fingerings; scales help you to memorize the fingering patterns.

Higher Altissimo

The upper altissimo is the highest range of the tenor sax. Upper altissimo notes rarely appear in music and require the use of the octave key for each pitch. The range extends an octave and one-half step from D7 to D#8. The first note of this register uses the octave key, the left F key, the C side key and the third right main key.


Woodwind Fingering Guide: Fingering Scheme for Saxophone [http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/sax/sax_fing.html]

Resources (Further Reading)

Woodwind Fingering Guide: Saxophone [http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/sax/]


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